Current research

Joy of Giving: Evidence from a Matching Experiment with Millionaires and the General Population (with Paul Smeets, Ashley Whillans, and Michael Norton)

How much do people benefit from giving to others? Does the size of the gift matter? How does the joy derived from giving vary between persons? We answer these questions in a unique experiment conducted among large samples of the general population (n = 1,232) and of millionaires (n = 807) in the Netherlands. Two thirds of participants entered a lottery with five prizes worth €100 that could be donated to a charity of their choice. For one third of participants in the match treatment, contributions were doubled by the experimenters. After the donation decision, participants reported their mood. We test whether giving improved mood, whether giving more makes people happier than giving less, and whether these mood effects vary with the match. We thank participants at the 5th Science of Philanthropy Initiative Conference in Indianapolis and at the Association for the Study of Generosity in Economics (ASGE) session of the ASSA meeting in Atlanta for comments and suggestions. The preregistration of the research is here. The conference presentation is here.


Altruism, Warm Glow, and Generosity: A National Experiment (with Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm)
To what extent does altruism influence donations to charity? How does empathy induction and a moral appeal to the principle of care affect altruism and generosity? In this research, joint work with Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm (IUPUI), we try to answer this question. The project received funding from the Science of Philanthropy Initiative.

  • We presented the design of the envisioned field experiment at the 2nd SPI Conference, November 7-8, 2014.
  • A first pilot experiment was conducted on January 23, 2015 to develop a scale to measure the principle of care as a psychological state.
  • A second pilot experiment was conducted on April 16 and 17, 2015, to measure the effect of a manipulation of the principle of care through exposure to the mission statement of Oxfam America either in the form of a text, the text with a still image of donors, or a video in which donors voice the text. We extended the fieldwork on July 16, 2015.
  • An overview of the findings of the pilot experiments is in the paper presented at the 14th TIBER Symposium on Psychology and Economics and at the 3d SPI Conference, September 10-11, 2015. Slides here.
  • A third pilot experiment was conducted in October and November 2016 to test the budgets among a subsample of participants in the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey 2016. Hypotheses were preregistered here. Results were presented at the 86th Southern Economic Association Conference, Washington DC, November 19-21, 2016.
  • The field experiment remains to be conducted (Fall 2018).


Trust and Giving (with Pamala Wiepking and Matt Bennett)

Does a culture of trust encourage charitable giving? We study whether the level of generalized trust in a country is correlated with the level of charitable giving, over and above the individual level relationship.  Building on an interdisciplinary literature we formulate hypotheses explaining if, and if so why and how, a culture of trust promotes charitable giving. We test these hypotheses using multiple data sets, including data from the CAF World Giving Index, the Global Trust Research Consortium, and the Individual International Philanthropy Database. Our results can help understand if and how cultures of trust promote giving. The paper will be presented at the 47th ARNOVA Conference in Austin, Texas.


20 Years of Giving in the Netherlands (with Arjen de Wit, Pamala Wiepking, and Suzanne Felix)

How have giving and volunteering practices in the Netherlands changed in the past 20 years? Since the Giving in the Netherlands project started in 1995, 10 biennial surveys have been conducted that quantify the size and composition of philanthropy in the Netherlands. We are now stacking all the data that we have collected into one huge data file to answer the questions that ordinarily go unanswered. Who has been driving the increase in the amount donated in the 1990s? Why has giving not increased after 2001? Which households are giving more as a proportion of their income and wealth?

Results from the research were published in Dutch on April 20, 2017, in a volume in Dutch, called Geven in Nederland 2017: Giften, Legaten, Sponsoring en Vrijwilligerswerk. An English paper was presented at the ERNOP conference in Copenhagen and the ISTR Conference in Amsterdam. The paper is posted at the Open Science Framework.


Field experiments on crowdfunding (with Claire van Teunenbroek and Bianca Beersma)

PhD candidate Claire van Teunenbroek designed a natural field experiment with an online crowdfunding platform in the Netherlands. The experiment was preregistered on and has been completed. A paper describing the results is currently under review. The paper, the data and materials are posted at the OSF.


Mega-Analysis of Generalized Social Trust (with the Global Trust Research Consortium)

With an application to generalized social trust this paper introduces mega-analysis, a method developed to increase the power and generality of conclusions from empirical data-analyses. A mega-analysis uses the largest possible number of observations of a phenomenon to quantify the strength of its correlates. Characteristics of the data (e.g., time, place, collection mode) and measures (e.g., scale properties) are modeled as separate predictors in addition to substantive predictors (i.e., theoretically derived variables). Specific dependent variables as well as relations between a specific dependent variable and a set of predictors can be mega-analyzed. The benefits of mega-analysis emerge from the analysis of generalized trust, a variable included in a large number of surveys and experiments conducted globally. The mega-analysis of trust shows how sample composition, survey design and choices in statistical modeling affect the conclusions on correlates of trust.

Click here to download the most recent version of the paper. 

Status update (June 13, 2018): We have now identified over 365 surveys that include at least one question on generalized trust. The current master file includes 3,828,342 observations from 203 surveys in 165 countries, from 1953 to 2017. See the Global Trust Research Consortium website for more details.


ITSSOIN: Impact of the Third Sector on Social Innovation
What is the impact of the third sector on social innovation in Europe? This was the key question of the ITSSOIN project, coordinated by the Centre for Social Investment (CSI) at the University of Heidelberg. At the Center for Philanthropic Studies I worked with Arjen de Wit, Dave Verkaik and Danique Karamat Ali on this project.

Our contribution focused on the impact of volunteering on volunteers and society at large (WP3). One of the key findings in this project is that volunteering contributes to well-being, health, and the scope and size of social networks. The effects of volunteering are not very large, but consistently positive. Read more about it here. We are working on a journal article reporting the results in a mega-analysis.

Thus far, the ITSSOIN project has resulted in the following journal articles:

  1. De Wit, A., Mensink, W., Einarsson, T. & Bekkers, R. (2017). Beyond Service Production: Volunteering for Social Innovation. Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly,
  2. Bekkers, R. & Verkaik, D. (2018). Citizen Perceptions of the Third Sector in Europe. Paper submitted.

The publications are based on our contributions to seven reports:

  1. Anheier, H.K.; Krlev, G.; Preuss, S.; Mildenberger, G.; Bekkers, R.; Mensink, W.; Bauer, A.; Knapp, M.; Wistow, G.; Hernandez, A, & Adelaja, B., (2014). Social Innovation as Impact of the Third Sector. This report describes the general approach that the project will take to study social innovation.
  2. Anheier, H. K., Krlev, G., Preuss, S., Mildenberger, G., Bekkers, R., Brink Lund, A. (2014). ITSSOIN Hypotheses. This report describes the hypotheses to be tested in the project.
  3. Bekkers, R. & Brink Lund, A. (2014). Perceptions of the Third Sector. This report describes empirical analyses of how Europeans view the third sector.
  4. Bekkers, R. & De Wit, A. (2015). Participation in Volunteering: What helps and Hinders. This report provides a literature review of factors that facilitate and inhibit volunteering.
  5. Bekkers, R. & Verkaik, D. (2015). How to estimate what participation in third sector activities does for participants. This report describes various methodologies to estimate the effect of participation in third sector activities, and specifically volunteering, on health, occupation, and well-being.
  6. De Wit, A., Bekkers, R., Karamat Ali, D., & Verkaik, D. (2015). The Welfare Impact of Participation on Participants. A report on the welfare impacts of volunteering, using longitudinal panel datasets from multiple countries in Europe, primarily the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland.
  7. De Wit, A., Mensink, W., Einarsson, T., & Bekkers, R. (2015). Organisations that Facilitate Volunteering. A report on the influence of third sector organisations on volunteers and the role of social innovation.


EUFORI: EU Study on Foundation Funding for Research and Innovation

How much do foundations in Europe spend on Research and Innovation? How do these foundations operate and view their roles vis-a-vis government and corporate actors? The Center of Philanthropic Studies has coordinated a study on European Foundations supporting Research and Innovation (EUFORI). The study was commissioned by the directorate general Research and Innovation of the European Commission. The bulk of the research is conducted by a network of experts on the 27 EU member states from the European Research Network On Philanthropy ( The study builds on a pilot study called FOREMAP published in 2009 by the  European Foundation Centre. More information on the EUFORI study is available here. In the fall of 2014 I have been working on a comparative analysis of R&I support by foundations throughout the European Union. The study is completed, and the results are available here.


One response to “Current research

  1. Pingback: Nederlanders geven meer uit aan afval dan donaties –

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